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WCC Tournament Semifinal Recap: Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s advance

Zags and Gaels, once again.

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Saint Mary's vs BYU
Emmett Naar (3) and his Gaels celebrate during their 31 point victory over BYU Monday night.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga survived a test from a game Santa Clara squad in the opener, then Saint Mary’s beat the life out of BYU in the nightcap. That sets up a clash between the conference’s two best teams, both ranked in the AP Top-25 for the entire season, on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Pacific on ESPN.

Semifinal 1: No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs 77, No. 4 Santa Clara Broncos 68

Gonzaga’s streak hits its second decade.

“I've been here for 5 years, and every year we come here with the same mindset,” senior center Przemek Karnowski said. “We know there's no margin for error in March."

Gonzaga has had that mindset for a lot longer than five years now. With the win, the Zags are heading back to the WCC Tournament title game, a game in which they’ve played in each season since 1998. Nigel Williams-Goss led the Zags in points (25), rebounds (8) and assists (5). Karnowski added 19 and seven while Johnathan Williams pitched in 11 and six.

Jared Brownridge scored the game high 32 points, but was unable to lead the shorthanded Broncos to an upset. He finishes his career 0-10 against Gonzaga, though he came close on a number of upset attempts.

The Zags kept Brownridge out of the scoring column for nearly 10 minutes to open the game, but the Broncos hung around. When the stellar senior scored his first bucket, with 10:12 left in the first, the game was tied at 20.

But from the 6:54 mark until only 58 seconds remained in the half the Broncos were scoreless.

Still, the Zags didn’t really pull away. And a 10-0 Santa Clara run in the middle of the second once again made it a game.

With less than two minutes to play a Brownridge three brought the Broncos within five. But both of Gonzaga’s Vegas locals answered. Findlay Prep product Williams-Goss drilled a three on the next possession, and Bishop Gorman grad Zach Collins (9 points) followed suit.

Brownridge hit a three in the final seconds, a fitting end for a guy who has been balling out since day one.

Santa Clara is 17-16 on the season after the loss, which means the postseason could be in their future. Gonzaga, now 31-1, continues on its quest towards a one seed.

Semifinal 2: No. 2 Saint Mary’s Gaels 81, No. 3 BYU Cougars 50

Saint Mary’s picked up win 28 on Monday night, giving Randy Bennett his fifth 28 win season in 16 tries. But after getting left out of the NCAA Tournament last season with 27 wins, Bennett understands not everyone is aware of just how good his No. 19 ranked Gaels are.

“If you watched us tonight you had to be pretty impressed if you haven't seen us,” Randy Bennett said.

After a 31 point throttling of BYU, in which the Gaels held the Cougars to just five assists — Emmett Naar had 11 on his own — that’s a fair assessment.

Jock Landale had a double-double with 22 points and 10 assists. Calvin Hermanson poured in 14 points on 4-8 shooting. Naar added 12 points and Tanner Krebs scored 11 off the bench.

Defensively, the Gaels were equally impressive. BYU’s offense opened 1-12 from the field and never really found a rhythm. In the end the Cougars managed just 31.7% shooting.

Starting shooting guard Nick Emery finished 0-7 from the field.

Saint Mary’s won both prior meetings by 13 points each, but tonight completed the sweep in emphatic fashion.

The Gaels (28-3) advance to the WCC Tournament title game for the second straight season. BYU (22-11) now waits to see if the NIT will come calling.